when i imagine the goodfuture i see people having what they need and doing what they like in a state of general comfort, and i think what people like to do is: satisfying work that merits the appreciation of others.
i see people being open about their needs and spending their time satisfying each others needs.
i dont think a big organizational structure is necessary for this. i think people can mostly organize to meet their local communities' needs within very small and localized parameters, and i think people can ask for and offer help on a global scale without some centralized bureaucracy.
i think part of what we have in a global world now, especially obvious in the pandemic, is an overlapping of what 'local' really means. people largely spend their time on their work, and they mostly interact with their peers in that work. these peers are often globally distributed, and i think that as more work becomes decentralized and capital loses its grasp on it, we'll naturally become more and more distributed in where we live, too. many people would prefer to live outside the city if they could, and in a world of plenty where your work is not forcing you to centralize in some office so a manager can watch over and discipline you, people will naturally distribute across the landscape. so for me its easy to imagine a world where things like food and shelter are organized mostly locally, and things like art, science, and technology are organized globally (but 'locally' within their various subdisciplines and movements: globally does not mean as a monolith).
i think there will be regional specialities and necessary central facilities for certain things, but processes will be more and more open-information and technology will be reproducible in most places.
there are certainly major steps we can take to combat the oppresive global order we live under now, but in my mind those steps are things like: google employees unionizing, or amazon becoming a public utility.
i dont have any say over what the workers at google or amazon do, and working the democratic process in my country to achieve political goals is a very slow game that i dont have a lot of interest or skill at: ill stay alert, agitate and support movements wherever i can. i hope to be able to continue voting in younger and more diverse, more utopian socialist candidates to either destroy or permanently change the democratic party into a genuine version of itself. but im not about to run for office, and im not interested in focusing my work on that political arena. and for the most part, this is something i can engage in only in a very sporadic way, while mostly focusing on other more continuous work.
there are other things i see as everyday steps i really can take to move towards that future and make it more possible.
to me the question is, if this is the goodfuture that we hope is coming, how do we best prepare our local surroundings for its arrival, so that when it does have a chance to be born it's likely to survive its birth? actually, i think this is just the more humble aspiration. the bold one is, if everyone prepares their local surroundings for the arrival of the goodfuture, then we will have actually birthed it. but i cant aspire to other peoples' actions, i can only direct my own.
so, what does it look like? what are my local surroundings, how can i prepare them or begin to act such that the goodfuture is here?
well i think there are obvious things like: generosity towards your neighbors (especially the poor and unhoused), attempting as best you can to create a locale where people are housed and fed, so that they can be free from the burden of suffering and able to live fulfilled lives. but in a city like seattle, where our politics are dominated by the same tech giants and billionaires that dominate the globe, much of this ends up in the same arenas of global change that do feel so unimaginable and unreachable. charity, especially through mutual aid groups, feels like almost all that can be done, outside of the political arena, for someone who doesn't work at a tech giant and so can't focus on unionization. locally for me, the thing making it hard for people to survive is skyrocketing housing costs driven by investor greed and the ascendant techie class. but i can give to the people i see in need, to the degree that i have money to give. i can do grocery pickup and delivery through local mutual aid groups. its not quite nothing.
where i have a lot more freedom and power is in my work. as an independent game maker im really lucky to be able to choose how i work with others, how my work relates to my peers. building a generous and self-sufficient locale around my work is absolutely doable.
i think the essential bits of this kind of locale are:
1 - generosity, openness, and trust. helping those around you. being open with information. believing in other peoples' essential goodness. giving other people what they need, to the degree that i can, and trusting that they'll use what they're given to advance a better world.
2 - real democracy. wherever power is centralized it should be transparent and directly accountable to the people it's meant to serve. to the degree it's avoidable, power structures should be independent of any powerful individuals and perfectly able to survive their absence.
and i really think that's it. i think from those two basic principles everything else can extend. the real power of a legitimate democracy is its ability to grow and change as the people who make it up determine its more perfect shape.
those are the principles that Ice Water Games is built on, and it's why i see the project as genuinely utopian as well as realistic and practical. we're building the structures and interpersonal practices that will make up the goodfuture. we're practicing and preparing but in doing so i think we're also literally making it.
in some senses iwg is small and local. we work on a very small aesthetic slice of the games out there, only a few releases a year, only in certain markets and only at very small team sizes. label business is still only done in english. we're not building an empire, we're building a local organization. in other senses though, we're global. we have members in many countries and on different continents. i think its because of this overlap that the project feels both manageable and aspirational. like the changes we're working towards are practical but they're also affecting people on a global level in ways that are not selfish or smallminded, and which can have ripple effects through many communities.
what we're doing is actually very humble, and it's genuinely difficult, and the rewards are not really there in the normal ways. without investment money all we have is each others generosity and time, and even that is very limited as we're all living under the boot of global capitalism, time for generosity can be hard to come by. but it is there and it is genuine.
even just in terms of sharing hard-earned, experience-based knowledge among ourselves, there has been so much mutual benefit. a recent example: ive been working on localizing tenderfoot, and it's the first time ive localized anything, and ive been so so lucky and grateful to have label member Maggie there, able and willing to so generously share her experience with localizing games in the industry. it might sound silly and small but this localization project has been one of the most demoralizing and challenging parts of my year, and i dont think i would have made it this far without someone looking over my work and encouraging me that im not completely fucking this up.
or in the other direction, ive given my time to various games on the label, helping test devices that the developers dont have access to, or building press lists and reaching out on their behalf to help them get seen by their audience. these are things that take relatively little time and energy on my part and benefit my peers and their work in clear ways.
and more broadly, to me it feels like all of this work we do, even work focused very directly on our own games with no awareness of the label, like my own efforts marketing and selling tenderfoot, have continuous secondary benefits that do build the label and help support my peers. by representing tenderfoot under the label, weve helped build our social media presence, helped build our online community, brought the label into the view of a moderately large new audience. whenever tenderfoot is mentioned somewhere as an ice water games project, that benefits all iwg members future and past. every new label member that comes aboard as part of a new game team becomes a peer that has shared interest with every other label member. Madison, who came on to support tenderfoot's video and social media needs, is likely to return and provide her expertise as a trailer editor to future label games. we're building skills and gaining experience and becoming more robust as we go. label members who havent worked on a project since our first game still reach out looking for ways to help support the label with their work, partially because its only through iwg that theyre even permitted to do the kind of work they really want to be doing.
but its hard to remember all that when youre worried about rent. and in a real way this work does take some time and energy, and it often is at odds with publishers or investors in ways that can make it feel like its costing more than its worth, financially.
which is why i think its important for me to speak to the project on an emotional level, why i personally do return to talking about iwg as utopian again and again, if often only to myself. if it werent aspirational, if it were only practical, it would be too easy to throw it out and give up. without a view of where we're going and why we're going there, without any sense of a better future, its too easy to fall into despair and quit.
December 19, 2020